Britain's Brexit Billionaire Slams the Establishment
Woe betide the politician, economist or civil servant who bumps into Peter Hargreaves.
The billionaire, who was one of the biggest financial backers of Brexit, is fuming over how the exit is being handled. Not that he thinks much of opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn either. But this arch-capitalist is so unimpressed with the current state of affairs that he’s not averse to suggesting a dose of socialism might be needed to prove the merits of capitalism.
Misgivings aside, Hargreaves, 71, has done better than most since Britons voted to leave the European Union. His fortune has increased by about $2 billion to $4.6 billion on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index as shares in Bristol, England-based Hargreaves Lansdown Plc, the financial services provider he founded in 1981, hit a record this summer. The company said Tuesday that pretax profit rose 10 percent to 292.4 million pounds ($379 million) for the year ended June 30.
Hargreaves says he’d be just fine without his riches. Comments have been edited and condensed.
What would a Corbyn government mean for the U.K.?
Corbyn would be an absolute, unbelievable, total disaster. The pound would collapse. There would be an enormous brain drain from the U.K. The last time that tax rates went up to crazy rates, many very wealthy families left the U.K. and they’ve never come back. So many entrepreneurs left.
I really don’t know what Corbyn’s policies are. He’s purely been a protester for the whole of his life. He’s never even considered, even contemplated, he would actually have to make decisions. All he’s done is voted against everything. So we have no idea what this guy is about. We don’t know whether it’s Brexit or not, he flies with the wind. He’s like Boris Johnson, he’ll go either way that he thinks will get him the prime minister’s job.
Do you think he could get elected?
An awful lot of voters do not remember socialism in its extreme form in the past. I always say the 1970s were the U.K.’s decade of shame.
Corbyn would be a great tonic to this country. A dose of Corbyn would tell everybody that socialism’s bad. It would be unbelievably bad for this country during the period he was in but it would make people see sense and see that socialism is not a good way forward.
During the last bout of it there was the three-day week, strikes abounded, the tax rates were ludicrous.
It might not be good for your fortune?
You say my wealth is $4.6 billion? If it wiped $4 billion off and left me $600 million it would not change my lifestyle one iota.
How is Brexit being handled?
There isn’t one person on our Brexit team that has a clue. None of them are brave. None of them have done a deal. None of them know the art of the deal. And the amazing thing is they’ve never ever asked any of the people that really are great businessmen. They’ve left it to civil servants and not one of them has done anything of any worth in their lives.
What would your approach be?
They haven’t got the people to negotiate it who are really sold on it. Theresa May was a Remainer, the people that are doing the transactions don’t want Brexit. We should have a team that want Brexit and want us out of the EU.
The best option is no deal. No deal would give us free trade with Europe because the three biggest economies in Europe, outside Britain, are huge exporters to the U.K. That’s Germany, France and Italy. And those three economies would absolutely demand free trade from the EU. I guarantee my entire wealth that we would get free trade.
What have you been doing since leaving Hargreaves Lansdown?
I’m backing Blue Whale Capital. It’s going to be a force in fund management within a few years. The young chaps there, I would bet they know more about some of the companies in which they invested than most of the people that work in those companies.
What’s it like being a billionaire?
We live very modestly. I can’t see the point in going out and spending money on things you don’t want. I could afford anything. I don’t want anything. I don’t want to go out socializing every night. I’m quite happy to sit at home with my family.
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